Downend Flyers-Cheltenham Town Ladies braced for big Women’s Trophy tussle
CHELTENHAM Town Ladies and Downend Flyers clash in Bristol this Sunday, November 18 for a second round encounter at Lockleaze Sports Centre’s Bonnington Walk 3G facility (2pm) as the GFA Women’s Trophy competition starts to intensify, writes Simon Parkinson.
Travelling Cheltenham start as firm favourites as they continue to make big strides around the upper reaches of the FA Women’s National League South West Division One, whilst their hosts have been battling it out at the foot of the South West Women’s League Premier Division ladder without so much as a point to their name.
Alex Cheal’s Cheltenham convincingly came through their first round tie with St Nicholas Ladies unscathed at home, the 13-1 success made all the sweeter as their opponents on the day had edged a 1-0 win in an April final showdown between the sides at Oaklands Park last season.
For Saints it’s very much a learning curve right now as they steadily rebuild as a Gloucestershire County Women’s League First Division operation after disbanding their struggling National Women’s League first team at the end of last term.
And whilst the youthful and spirited Yate-based side fought to the very last whistle, they couldn’t contain Cheltenham opposition in freescoring mode, just as they have been over the bulk of a league programme seemingly shaping up nicely for them.
Cheltenham’s authority was asserted from the off with a goal by their leading scorer Annie Martin 30 seconds in following a driving run by Ella Hitchcox down the right.
Lucy Durham then opened her account for Town with a neat header following a flick by Kayleigh Hateley, and as the one-way traffic continued Durham slid home a cross-shot to make it 3-0.
Goals four and five followed in quick succession with the best finishes of the match. Forward Rose Knuckey opened her seasonal account following a flowing move resulting in her volleying home from the edge of the area, before the impressive Georgia Brown added a fifth as the 16-year-old triumphantly blasted a half-volley into the top corner.
Durham next scored with a superb strike from a Rebecca Wilkins through ball before the battling away side took advantage of a lapse in concentration at the back to register through their captain Charlotte Davis.
Roused into a quick riposte, the impressive Brown completed her hat-trick with two superb long-range finishes to make it 8-1 at the interval.
Substitute Rhian Robbins was quick to introduce herself with two strikes at goal soon into the restart which were saved well by St Nics keeper Lauren White.
But as the hour mark approached Brown notched her fourth of the game with another long-range special, before winger Hitchcox was next to get in on the act after good work by Robbins.
Hateley struck relentless Town’s 11th goal with a searing strike into the corner of the net and Martin and Brown added to their tallies to complete the scoring.
Cheltenham chairman Andy Liddle acknowledged: “St Nics sent a very young team and while the result might have suggested an easy ride for us, Saints did well and never gave up.
“Last season we struggled to overcome sides from two or three leagues below because we lacked a level of professionalism to get the job done.
“This performance highlighted the change in mentality from us as a club because we remained ruthless throughout and our girls kept the ball very well.”
Other Women’s Trophy second round ties this Sunday, November 18 (all 2pm): AEK Boco v Oldland Abbotonians, Cheltenham Civil Service v Bristol & West, Forest of Dean v Longlevens, Cheltenham Town Development v Chipping Sodbury Town, Longwell Green v Frampton Rangers, Abbeymead Rovers v Forest Green Rovers.
Meanwhile Downend Flyers Reserves will entertain their Gloucestershire County Women’s League rivals Cheltenham Town Ladies Youth in the quarter-finals of the GFA Women’s Challenge Cup on February 17 after safely seeing off Bishops Cleeve Ladies 2-0 thanks to Jade Didcot and Libby Watkins goals.
Flyers’ long-serving secretary and founder Sue Hiscox said: “It was a much better performance but it’s going to be a tough season.”